Mon, Jul 26, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Militants killed in latest Iraqi firefight

UNDER FIRE The clash was one of another series of violent incidents across Iraq over the weekend, with Iraqi officials among those targeted by the insurgents

AP , BAGHDAD

A relative of Iraqi police officer Abbass Rahman cries while looking at his coffin during his funeral in Baghdad yesterday. One of seven wounded Iraqi policemen died from injuries received after gunmen opened fire at them a day earlier while manning a checkpoint in southeast Baghdad.

PHOTO: REUTERS

US and Iraqi forces clashed with insurgents in a battle that escalated from gunfire to artillery barrages near the violence-wracked city of Baquba early yesterday, killing 13 Iraqi militants, the US military said.

Iraqi forces and US troops suffered no casualties from the fighting in Buhriz, about 60km north of Baghdad.

Qayser Hameed, an emergency worker at Baquba General Hospital, said two dead Iraqis -- a police officer and a civilian -- and six injured civilians were brought to the hospital. Some of the casualties had bullet wounds, while others had been hit by shrapnel, he said. It was unclear if the two killed in the hospital were in addition to the 13 dead reported by the military.

Yasir Ahmed Ismail, the dead police officer, was killed inside his house when a mortar hit nearby, according to police Lieutenant Mohammed Adel.

The battle came amid a surge of violence across Iraq that killed a US soldier near the city of Beiji, a former Baghdad official and his son in the capital, two policemen south of Baghdad and five people in a string of attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk.

US and Iraqi National Guard forces entered an area of palm groves south of Buhriz early yesterday and destroyed a suspected staging ground used by insurgents for attacks on coalition and Iraqi troops, said Major Neal O'Brien, spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.

During the raid, insurgents attacked Iraqi National Guard forces with small arms and the Iraqi troops chased the attackers into the southern section of the town, O'Brien said.

At about 11am, the Iraqi fighters began firing mortars indiscriminately, and the US responded with artillery fire, he said.

TV footage recorded several loud explosions, apparently from artillery and mortar fire, booming through Buhriz and bullets ricocheting off building and shop walls, sending residents running for cover. A US Apache helicopter hovered overhead.

Local Iraqi fighters, some wearing white robes and red scarves over their faces but most clad in black clothing and ski masks, roamed the streets carrying rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Buhriz, a former stronghold of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, has been the scene of previous clashes between coalition forces and Iraqi insurgents.

The clashes on Saturday killed 13 insurgents, and the US military confiscated an array of weapons, including three 120mm mortar rounds, one 155mm artillery round and three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, O'Brien said.

Meanwhile, violence surged across the country.

One US soldier was killed and another injured when a roadside bomb exploded as they were escorting a fuel convoy, the military said yesterday. The explosion on Saturday afternoon occurred outside the city of Beiji, about 145km south of the northern city of Mosul, US Army spokesman Master Sergeant Robert Powell said.

In the Baghdad suburb of al-Dora, gunmen killed Brigadier Khaled Dawoud, the former head of Baghdad's Nahyia district under Saddam Hussein, and his son in a drive-by shooting yesterday, police lieutenant Mustafa Abdullah al-Dulaimi said. Dawoud's son was not identified.

The car was raked with bullet holes, its windows shattered and its interior covered in blood.

Gunmen also killed two policemen yesterday morning as they traveled to work at the Mahmoudiya police station about 40km south of Baghdad, police lieutenant Alla Hussein said. The attackers escaped.

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